Three Missouri WWII veterans, and three D-Day Vets will be honored next week at the National Churchill Museum on the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The three highly decorated veterans over the age of 90, and a 99-year-old former bomber pilot from Michigan will be saluted on June 6th, the anniversary of the day they stormed the beaches of Normandy.
Of the four World War II veterans to be saluted, three were among the 106,000 Allied forces from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and other Allied countries who were engaged in battle on or over the five beaches code-named “Utah,” “Omaha,” “Gold,” “Juno” and “Sword” in Normandy, France, on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Other Allies who took part in D-Day operations were Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, and Poland.
Dubbed “Operation Overlord,” the invasion of Normandy – the largest seaborne invasion in history – was planned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill, and conducted under the leadership of Supreme Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
D-Day marked a decisive turning point in WWII and changed the course of history because the invasion helped liberate France from the Nazis, and less than a year later, on May 7, 1945, Germany surrendered.
The four veterans, representing D-Day troops and other WWII GIs are:
- James Dale “Jim” Feltz Sr., 94, of St. Peters, MO, is a highly decorated U.S. Navy veteran who served aboard the USS Plunkett, assisting convoys in the North Atlantic; participated in the invasion of North Africa, the axis boot of Sicily, and the Battle of Anzio; screened transports off Omaha Beach on D-Day; aided in the shore bombardment at Cherbourg, France; and, later landed in Japan with the first occupation troops.
- Claude Brauer Friend, 93, of Luebbering, in Franklin County, MO, is a highly decorated Purple Heart recipient who served in the U.S. Army as a member of the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2ndInfantry Division, Heavy Weapons Company H, who was sent to Normandy Beach as one of the first of the invasion forces on June 6th, 1944. His unit fought their way across France through the summer and fall, crossed into Belgium, and courageously fought in the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 and January 1945, the last major German offensive on the Western Front during WWII.
- Richard Toshio “Dick” Henmi, 95, of Webster Groves, MO, is WWII officer who escorted 1,400 German POWs back to Germany on a ship and by train during WWII. He was later assigned as a member of General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s division to Karlsruhe, in Munich, where he was responsible for guarding trains and railroad yards in the southern part of Germany and Austria, and guarded shipments into Switzerland and Italy.
- Morton E. Harris, 98, of Detroit, MI, is a Churchill Fellow and a highly decorated U.S. Army Air Force veteran who successfully completed more than 33 combat missions over occupied Europe, was shot down by enemy fire twice, successfully delivered arms to French freedom fighters who fought in support of the Allied troops, struck coastal defenses and communications networks, flew two early morning sorties during the D-Day invasion of Normandy to attack enemy strongholds at Caen, was a squadron commander in the 95th Bomber Group of the 8th Air Force, and, later flew the first U.S. military mission to Berlin, headquarters of the German military.
The commemoration ceremony will include selected readings by Churchill, Eisenhower and Roosevelt, and letters from those who landed on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.